What to know about the Pitman Arm:
The Pitman Arm, named after railroad engineer George Pitman, is tasked with steering your car. The Pitman takes the circular motion generated by the sector shaft and translates it so that it can be used to turn the wheels. The Pitman arm, held by the sector arm, is attached directly to the steering gearbox.
Facts to Note:
The Pitman Arm is robust. With proper maintenance, it will last the entire lifetime of your car.
How to Fix:
The vehicle is raised, secured on jack stands and the front tire detached
The defective pitman arm is detached
The new pitman arm is fitted with a new nut
The tire is fixed and the vehicle is lowered off of the jack stands
The vehicle is road tested for proper steering operation
The Pitman Arm needs regular maintenance. If it receives that maintenance, it will easily last the life of your car. However, if you fail to give it consistent maintenance, you will find that between 30,000 and 50,000 miles, your car’s steering will falter. To evade this, vehicle owners should have their Pitman Arm inspected frequently. A six-month inspection of the steering gear is more than adequate for most driving. However, if you drive in rough, rocky, off-road or other harsh conditions, the Pitman Arm will depreciate quickly. It is wise to have it examined, and changed, if need be, on a three-month basis if this is the case. This may seem drastic, but remember that if your car’s front wheels are taking a pounding, the Pitman Arm, as it sits on the steering gearbox, does too.
Common symptoms indicating you may need to change the Pitman Arm:
Excessive play in the steering
Uneven or slipping steering
Inexact steering or wandering
Importance of this service:
If you fail to follow the service recommendations in your owner’s manual, you run the very real risk of losing steering control due to Pitman Arm failure. When the Pitman Arm fails, there is no longer a connection between the sector shaft and the wheels. When that direct connection is lost, you lose the ability to steer, which can result in dangerous penalties.